Ayurveda for beginners

Ayurveda for beginners

Ayurveda is one of the oldest traditional medical systems in the world originating in India. With the resurging interest in medicine, Ayurveda is an increasingly popular holistic health option.

What Is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is an ancient medical practice with a holistic and individualized approach to wellness. “Ayurveda” is a Sanskrit term stemming from “ayur,” meaning “life,” and “veda,” meaning “science” or “knowledge.” Therefore, Ayurveda translates to “the science of life.”

Ayurvedic practitioners believe we are connected to nature as well as each other. Personalized treatments are based on several individual factors, such as constitution (of mind, body and spirit), environment and specific ailments, and they address not only acute symptoms but also the root cause of those symptoms.

3 Principle Energies of the Body

The five elements, according to Ayurveda — ether (space), air, fire, water and earth—make up the three primary doshas, or energies — Vata, Pitta and Kapha—which are present in everything and everyone. These doshas influence several aspects of the world depending on when they are most prominent, from the four seasons to the time of day to the human body, which, in turn, interact with one another.


Vata consists of ether and air and is likened to the wind and kinetic energy. Vata influences bodily movements, such as the movement of limbs and blood flow. The other doshas are able to move through the body, the seasons and each day due to the impulses of the Vata dosha. Individuals with a predominance of Vata tend to be creative, petite and prone to illness. An excess of Vata results in anxiety, trouble sleeping, brittle hair, dry skin, constipation, an erratic appetite and moodiness. Restlessness and excessive movement is also a sign of predominant Vata energy. Vata is more prominent from autumn into winter when it’s colder and drier, in the early morning before the sun rises and mid-afternoon. At these times, Vata brings its light and uplifting nature to help energize the body and the mind.


Pitta consists of fire and water and, according to Ayurvedic theory, is responsible for digestion, metabolism and body temperature regulation. When in balance, Pitta gives us radiance and glow, proper heat, appetite and regular bowel movements. When it’s out of balance, we can experience burning [heartburn], indigestion, diarrhea, hives, acne, inflammation, anger and jealousy. Pitta excess causes you to “burn through material too quickly.” For example, you might notice an increased appetite or that you’re overworking yourself or lacking the ability to enforce boundaries for work/life balance. Pitta deficiency leads to mental and/or physical sluggishness. Pitta is more prominent in the summer when the weather is hot and humid, during the midday hours when the sun is at its highest point and late at night before sunrise, at which point pitta energy can keep you awake.


Kapha consists of water and earth and is responsible for moistening the body—lubricating the joint spaces, for example. Combining water and earth creates mud, making Kapha the “glue” that binds things together. Balanced Kapha results in a strong immune system, as well as loyalty, patience, endurance and steadiness. Excess Kapha causes feelings of lethargy and congestion as well as physical weight gain: You may crave sweets, retain water and feel depressed, jealous or greedy. Kapha is most prominent in the spring, from sunrise to mid-morning and from evening into nighttime. Morning Kapha time is best for exercise when Kapha brings strength to the muscles, while Kapha nighttime energy brings heaviness to the body and mind, leading into sleep.

How Ayurvedic Treatments Work

Each individual is born with their own unique constitution, also known as a dosha balance or Prakruti, and the goal of Ayurveda is to maintain that balance. An imbalance or deviation from Prakruti, called Vikruti, is what causes illness or “dis-ease.”

Balance is achieved by applying opposites, a concept humans are already familiar with. If you want to counterbalance the feeling of heaviness in your body, you create more activity for the body. You move it, you create energy.

Determine your dosha. First, an Ayurvedic practitioner determines your dosha balance to create a treatment plan. The practitioner will ask questions about your life, such as your daily schedule, eating habits and personal history, as well as consider your symptoms as they appear.

Individualize the treatment. Ayurvedic treatments are based on the individual, so they can vary greatly. You and your partner may both have a cough, for example, but an Ayurvedic practitioner may address the same condition very differently depending on the individual root cause.

Ayurvedic treatments can include:

  • Changes in diet and lifestyle
  • A mix of herbs and/or spices, such as ashwagandha and turmeric
  • Oils and tinctures
  • Detoxification procedures
  • Massages
  • Nasal cleaning (Nasya treatment)
  • Floral and botanical baths or steams
  • Pouring warm oil on the head (Shirodhara)

Health Benefits of Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurveda aligns well for many chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, skin conditions, digestive disorders, fertility and women’s health [issues], fatigue syndromes and mental health [conditions].

On a broader scale, Ayurveda can help you better understand yourself and your connection to nature. Ayurveda also aims to find the root cause of your symptoms and treats you according to your constitution, offering a comprehensive approach to body and mind wellness rather than treating a condition symptomatically.

Limitations of Ayurvedic Medicine

The main limitation of Ayurveda is emergency medicine. Ayurvedic medicine is better suited for preventative care and supporting chronic conditions.